WHEN he turned pro in 2016, top Zimbabwean tennis player Benjamin Lock set his sights on qualifying for Australian Open 2018, but it was not to be.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
But, although he will not be taking part in the first Grand Slam of the year this year, but following a brilliant 2018 season in which he won a total of eight titles on the ITF circuit, he is inching ever so close.
The 25-year-old star’s goal is to reach Grand Slam level in the shortest possible time. He is inspired by the Grand Slam tennis tradition that already runs in his family.
Lock’s uncle Roy Stilwell played mixed doubles at Wimbledon in the 1950s as well as singles at the French Open in 1965.
His grandmother Rita Stilwell also played in the Roehampton Grass Court Championships in England in the 1950s, while his father and mother Martin and Lindsay are local tennis legends in their own right.
“We have a lot of tennis history in the family. My grandmother on my mother’s side Rita Stilwell played in a Wimbledon pre-tournament event while her brother Roy made the third round in the Wimbledon mixed doubles and also played in the French Open singles,” Lock told The Sports Hub.
“It’s really motivating to know that your family has had some good players who recorded good results in the past, even in Grand Slams. And when your parents are legends of the game and are so passionate about the game, I think it helps with all the support we get from them and the interest that they show in helping us achieve our dreams,” he added.
Lock’s father, Martin, who is the current president of Tennis Zimbabwe, represented the country in the Davis Cup on many occasions while Lindsay represented Matabeleland and Zimbabwe in tennis.
Maternal great-grandfather Ralph Stilwell also represented Rhodesia in tennis.
After winning two singles titles and six in doubles, Lock last year achieved his highest doubles ranking, 175, and finished the season in 405th place in singles.
He reflected on the 2018 season in which he teamed up with his younger brother Courtney to win five titles, three of them on home soil.
“I had some good success with my brother last year. We started off winning three (doubles titles) in a row in Zimbabwe and then we went to Europe and then we had a good win in Nigeria and then we won in Mozambique. And we were also in the final in SA in December.
“It’s been a good year and we are really happy with our results so far but obviously there is always room for improvement. Hopefully, we can start to progress from the ITF Tour to the ATP Challenger Tour, solidify our position there and start to win tournaments at that level,” Lock said.
Lock was however disappointed to have missed out on Grand Slam qualification going into the New Year.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the Australian Open or any Grand Slam in the beginning of the year, but the focus will be to improve the game and improve my level and results will come from that when the ranking moves up.
“I am obviously happy about my doubles ranking, but I think at this stage, it’s more important how I am playing and what kind of shape I am in to start the new year. So I think the goal is to try to finish the year as best as I can and hopefully go as high as possible.
“I am happy with my progress so far, obviously I can always be better. I think the highlights for me have been the titles, but the big wins in the Davis Cup have been up there. I played some of my best tennis and to have those wins for my country is something very special,” he said.
Following the festive season, Lock is off to pre-season preparations in Florida, United States.
He is looking to get a good month of training before playing tournaments in that country end of January and beginning of February.
Lock reiterated his career goals.
“I just want to be the best player I can possibly be. I would love to win a Grand Slam, be top 100 in singles and top 50 in doubles. Those are the goals, but obviously I am naturally shooting to be at the very top of the game and that is why we play tennis — to try to be number one in the world,” he said.
Benjamin and Courtney will be looking to emulate the success of other siblings in professional tennis such as Bob and Mike Bryan from the United States, the United Kingdom’s Andy and Jamie Murray and Austrians Jürgen and Gerald Melzer.